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How The West Was Won (1962, Henry Fonda, James Stewart)

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Such was the scope of epic How The West Was Won that three veteran directors were hired to direct the various segments that went into telling the story of the opening up of the interior and west of America, from the early days of the mountain men through the Civil War to railroads criss-crossing the tamed continent.

And along with the quality directors came a cast of stars who were all at the peak of their box-office appeal, including James Stewart as Linus Rawlings, one of the mountain men whose trapping trips were the start of discovery, John Wayne as General Sherman in the Civil War and Debbie Reynolds at Lilith Prescott, one of the women who joined their men in the hazardous covered wagon train treks that were often attacked by Native Americans (the sequence in the film of such an attack used Native American actors, many of whom were direct descendants of those who battled the pioneers in the 19th century).

In addition to the big names, nearly 1,000 horses, 500 steers, 200 sheep, 1,200 buffalo and 200 wranglers were ’employed’ to give the film the epic feel required. The effort was well worth it: from the individual actors through the extras to the simply stunning exterior shots of America’s landscape, this is a landmark movie, winning three Oscars from eight nominations, interestingly the majority being for technical excellence rather than a named actor.

production details
USA | 162 minutes | 1962

Directors: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Richard Thorpe, George Marshall
Writer: James R Webb, John Gay

cast
John Wayne as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
Eli Wallach as Charlie Gant
Agnes Moorehead as Rebecca Prescott
Debbie Reynolds as Lilith ‘Lily’ Prescott
Harry Dean Stanton as Gant Henchman
Richard Widmark as Mike King
Rodolfo Acosta as Gant gang member
Harry Morgan as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Walter Brennan as Col. Jeb Hawkins
Lee Van Cleef as River Pirate
Robert Preston as Roger Morgan
George Peppard as Zeb Rawlings
James Griffith as Gambler
Willis Bouchey as Civil War Surgeon
Karl Malden as Zebulon Prescott
Thelma Ritter as Agatha Clegg
Carolyn Jones as Julie Rawlings
Lee J. Cobb as Marshal Lou Ramsey
Carroll Baker as Eve Prescott Rawlings
Henry Fonda as Jethro Stuart
Gregory Peck as Cleve Van Valen
James Stewart as Linus Rawlings
Spencer Tracy as Narrator
Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln
Russ Tamblyn as Confederate deserter
Mickey Shaughnessy as Deputy Stover
Clinton Sundberg as Hylan Seabury
Brigid Bazlen as Jeb Hawkins’ Daughter
Claude Johnson as Jeremiah Rawlings
Kim Charney as Sam Prescott
Bryan Russell as Zeke Prescott
Stanley Livingston as Prescott Rawlings
David Brian as Lilith’s Attorney
Andy Devine as Peterson
Jay C. Flippen as Huggins
Tudor Owen as Alec Harvey
Karl Swenson as Train Conductor

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